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Officials agree frustrated Dawsonville Highway drivers need solutions
Traffic woes may be eased by high-tech traffic monitoring, turn lane extension
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Christy Crumbley’s company doesn’t look for lonely roads to put up a storefront.

Based on that philosophy, Crye-Leike Real Estate Services has found a real sweet spot, sitting just off Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 at McEver Road in Gainesville.

But sometimes the heavy traffic can be a bit much for Crumbley, who commutes from Dahlonega.

“We know that, if we’re going somewhere, we’ve got to give ourselves some extra time just to get around this area,” she said.

Gainesville officials and the Georgia Department of Transportation are looking to find solutions to ease traffic congestion on Dawsonville Highway, particularly at McEver Road, where shops and eateries continue to be built and draw more motorists.

The city is working to expand a traffic monitoring system that allows employees “to observe, by live video, each intersection along this corridor and make immediate (signal) timing changes” as needed, Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said.

The high-tech Intelligent Transportation System uses fiber optic cables and cameras at each intersection to accomplish the task, he said.

Basically, signal equipment can be managed in real time through video monitoring “during times of heavy traffic and emergencies to maximize traffic flow,” Rotalsky said.

One intersection to the east, a westbound left turn lane at Green Hill Circle is set to be extended. Now, traffic often backs up on Dawsonville Highway as drivers wait to get into the turn lane for Chick-fil-A, Regal Hollywood 15 Cinemas or other businesses.

The DOT has contracted with Souder’s Asphalt of Pendergrass on the $81,028 project, which is scheduled for completion by March 26, weather permitting, district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

Generally, the city and DOT “have had several meetings to discuss the challenges of this corridor and we are currently evaluating additional projects to alleviate the traffic congestion,” Rotalsky said.

Also, the city is looking at any projects it can do without needing state or federal funding.

The traffic issue came up last week at the Gainesville City Council meeting.

“During the Christmas season, we had a complete, total meltdown over there trafficwise,” said Mandy Harris, who lives off Douglas Drive, near Ahaluna Drive at Dawsonville Highway.

She went on to talk about multiple-car wrecks and 70-vehicle backups in the area.

“For those of us who live and work there, we are confined to that area,” Harris told the council. “There is no way for us to get home except through this mess, so we would like for you to be hugely diligent (in the matter).”

A traffic light installed in October 2015 at a cluster of restaurants and North Lake Square shopping center has caused more problems, she said.

“It just made a mess out of the traffic,” Harris said. “Traffic is backed up all the way to the bridge (over Lake Lanier).”

“I can share with you that we’re aware of (Dawsonville Highway traffic) and we’re doing all that we can,” Mayor Danny Dunagan told Harris. “We’re talking with GDOT now, and our staff is working on some traffic solutions. ... It’s just going to take a little while to do that.”

Councilman George Wangemann said, “I was one of those 70 cars you counted. I had the same frustration. It took me 45 minutes to get (from the area) to my home, which is about 1« miles (away).”

Other help could be coming from DOT operations in Atlanta, at the request of the district office in Gainesville, City Manager Bryan Lackey said.

“It was good to get feedback that they agree that the situation needs to be addressed,” he said.

“There’s a lot of focus on Dawsonville Highway right now,” Lackey said at the council meeting. “So, we’re excited about what we can do to help that out to be ready for the next holiday season.”

Meanwhile, the area continues to grow. More development is planned at North Lake Square, including restaurants and a nail salon.

North Lake developer Tim Knight declined to comment about traffic issues in the area, saying he wasn’t familiar enough with possible solutions.

And a 94-room, 55,635-square-foot Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel is planned off Dawsonville Highway next to Buffalo Wild Wings and behind Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.

Miriam Gregory, who works at the Gateway House Thrift Store next to the shopping center, is also a longtime Sardis area resident who has seen her share of traffic changes in the area.

She said she believes the long-proposed Sardis Road Connector, a road linking Dawsonville Highway to Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 in North Hall, might be an answer to some of the traffic woes.

“It would reroute a lot of this traffic that doesn’t need to come through here,” Gregory said.

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